For its coaches, Grambling’s struggles on offense are not about Greg Dillon — despite a rash of turnovers, and a couple of misguided throws.
Rod Broadway told me that the focus this week has been less on decision-making for Dillon than on a series of breakdowns up front that have dogged their junior quarterback. One, he said, begets the other.
“We got beat up (against Jackson State),” Broadway said. “They were better up front, physically. From where we’re standing, Greg’s decision-making was better this week than the week before. If we can protect him, he can make some plays.”
I drilled in on the idea of running the ball, specifically through Frank Warren — who has been the Grambling offense’s most consistent big-play maker in 2009. It seems, with their size and leverage, this line has done better at run blocking than traditional protection.
Why not, as a difficult first month of non-conference football action draws to a close against Oklahoma State, consider running the ball?
“We only threw the ball 18 times,” Broadway told me. “We have to continue to improve (on the offensive line), to get a hat on hat. Jackson wore us out up front.”
First, I’ll say that don’t think the 18 attempts credited to Dillon last Saturday at Jackson State account for the myriad times he pulled the ball down on what was once a passing play in order to make a run for it.
But even if that number was accurate in terms of plays called, this team has showed it can have stirring success with a downhill rushing attack against every team its faced so far this year. I think Warren and Co. could work to open up the passing game if they were a focus more consistently. And it could take some of the pressure off of the athletic Dillon, who is clearly struggling with efforts to make him more of a pocket presence.
As to reader comments questioning that move, I have to say — in general — it’s a sound coaching decision. The more Dillon moves around in open space, the more he opens himself up to punishing blows from larger defenders. The former walk-on, generously listed around 6-0, hasn’t been prone to injury, but it has to be a concern, and Grambling’s staff is smart to try to limit that exposure.
Too, it adds complexity to the attack. You don’t want defenders thinking that it’s a running play every time Dillon has the ball in his hands.
That said, schemes must adapt to the players, and the special attributes they possess. Greg Dillon is one of those guys who works best in an improvisational moment. That’s why the no-huddle has been such a savvy coaching decision for this offense.
Grambling, in my opinion, should follow that impulse to creativity. Part of great — rather than simply good — coaching is understanding how to mesh both what you want to do and what you, in fact, can do.
I take nothing away from this staff. They turned an unknown quantity like Dillon — once the roughest of diamonds in the rough — into the MVP of the two biggest games Grambling played last year.
But his continued maturation must run parallel with their own emerging understanding of just what Greg Dillon is capable of.